Clara Fannjiang

of Davis, CA

Winner of the Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Student Award in 2011

Bird Under the Lamppost 


in the haze of dusk
i sit and watch you,
your quiet games as they
till the soft air  

(nothing left but the seven pennies
discolored and disfigured,
utterly nameless, of course,
but you scatter them so industriously  

into the lamplight -
you, dear bird, who in the art
of your presumptuousness
love nothing better  

than that tick and tine
of light against metal,
that semblance of beautiful
things manifest  

in little worlds - for isn't that
how you fly, dear bird,
is that not the cleanness
of your buoyancy, maybe nothing  

better than faith in pennies
and their lucent morgues,
isn't the void of the sky just that,
a lovely mouth holding you  

captive as you now float
into the dark, vivid and breathless,
like a small girl blowing the husk
of a ladybug back to life)

line

Ada Limon on Clara Fannjiang

Sometimes there is truth in a poem that comes barreling in loud and bristling, other times the truth comes quietly, leans up next to you, and gives you a sneaky little thumbs up. "Bird Under the Lamppost" has that sort of truth living within its lines. The speaker is only the observer, only present in the first stanza, then the poem is given up to bird. Both action and sound work together beautifully, as does that "tick and tine/of light against metal," in order to create this singular keyholed world. And what a lively spiral the poem reaches in the end! We go from bird mouth, to sky mouth, to human mouth in a true mastery of wordy flight. "Bird Under the Lamppost" is thoughtful and artful, while vibrating with a unique voice that makes the poem compelling. "Isn't that/how you fly, dear bird" asks the speaker and in the end the question is answered confidently, it is indeed how we all fly. In seven quiet quatrains the poem's internal structure plays with a balance between the small and the large, the specific and the abstract, and (with the use of these wonderful parenthesis) the idea of containment and freedom. But, in the end, what drew me to the poem was the very simple sense of possibility, of restoration, of the sky not looming, but opening. May it always do so for this young poet.

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